Happy Independence Day!
Today we celebrate 243 years! So much has happened since that fateful day, July 4, 1776. I am grateful to live in one of the greatest countries in the world; The United States of America (U.S.A.).
Don't get me wrong, I am a Jew, love Israel, and its existence is very important. I would be remiss if I didn't appreciate the many gifts that we have been blessed with while living in the U.S.A. Unlike other countries where we have lived, we have been able to freely observe Judaism without government intervention. We really have been fully accepted into the greater society. That being said, there has been a rise in Antisemitism, and I warn that we don't get too complacent. We must be aware of the shifting tide and know when it's our time to move on.
For generations, the purpose of education was to train leaders, thinkers, entrepreneurs, and statesmen and to perpetuate freedom. In order to accomplish this, they learned what freedom is, what is required to maintain it and the will to fight for it. This education encouraged students to think and how to think. Whereas today, our schools teach us what to think.
The founding fathers were steeply grounded in the Hebrew Bible and many other classic works. In fact, much of the Constitution is based on Biblical principles. Allan Bloom wrote "In the United States, practically speaking, the Bible was the only common culture, one that united simple and sophisticated, rich and poor, young and old, and....provided access to the seriousness of books. With its gradual and inevitable disappearance, the very idea of such a total book and the possibility and necessity of world-explanation is disappearing." The challenge is that many do not understand the importance of the Bible. In addition, many let their Egos get in the way of doing what's right. I've heard that Ego stands for Edging G-d Out. I do believe that's true.
The Torah (Hebrew Bible) is central to Judaism. It is so important, that we read it publicly three times a week and even more often privately. Events in the Bible can teach us so much. Let's take a look at this week's Torah Parsha, Korach. Korach and his followers are upset with Moshe and Aaron because they weren't happy with their lot.They felt that Moshe and Aaron had put themselves above everyone else. The truth is Korach and his followers didn't want to become closer to Hashem and they weren't complaining L'shem Shamayim (for the sake of heaven); it was for their own egos. Korach's followers felt similar to how some of us feel when we see people promising things for us. However, those promises are empty. Moshe, Aaron, Korach, and his followers were told to bring incense and burn it on the fire. Then, Hashem could see whose intentions were pure. Unfortunately for Korach and company, they were swallowed up into a pit.
I see a parallel between this story of Korach and what is going on today. Many people think that we are free to do whatever we want without being held accountable for our actions. That people from another country should be allowed to enter another country without going through a formal process. Many feel that they're owed something whether it be from the government, parents, friends, etc. Many people look to so-called politicians who promise the world and think they are leaders, much like the people did with Korach. There are limits that were set with the Bill of Rights, Magna Carta, Constitution, and Declaration of Independence. Limits for individuals and limits for governments. Each of us is born with a G-d given right to have the freedom to earn a livelihood, live safely, practice our religion, and be treated fairly and justly. The rest is our responsibility. Freedom comes with responsibility. We can't take it for granted! That is what the Declaration of Independence teaches us. More importantly, that is what the Torah teaches us. Happy Independence Day!